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fA painting by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam was sold at Sotheby's for $326,500 Thursday night, a record high for a painting by a living Israeli artist.

"4 Themes Contrepoint" was expected to sell at the New York auction house for between $50,000 and $70,000.

"This is amazing to me," Agam told Haaretz Thursday. "In my humble opinion, in a few years this work will go for millions of dollars. My prices will go up in keeping with the history I made in the art world."

Many other works by Israeli artists that were on the block last night also fetched higher prices than usual. Of the 150 Israeli works on offer, 116 were sold.

The Israeli painting that sold for the highest price is Reuven Rubin's "Safed in Galilee," which went for $410,500. Another of Rubin's paintings, "On the Road to Safed," was sold for $194,500, although it had been expected to go for between $80,000 and $100,000.

Avigdor Arikha's "Books" were sold for $134,500, rather than the expected high of $90,000. Arikha's painting "Mademoiselle A.R.," among those on offer from the Phoenix Insurance Company collection and expected to go for between $80,000 and $100,000, found no buyers.

Sigal Mordechai, the co-managing director of Sotheby's in Tel Aviv, said Thursay that the auction was lively and that participants included Israeli and American collectors, some of them new buyers.

"The recognition by collectors in Israel and abroad of the extraordinary quality of the Phoenix collection was clear in the sale," she said, adding that the paintings from the Phoenix collection had sold for a total of $1,229,313, instead of the expected $735,000.

Mordechai said the previews in Tel Aviv and New York had also been crowded, and ascribed the success of the auction to the "improvement in the economic situation and items from the Phoenix collection that were sold for reasonable prices and were an opportunity for purchasers."

"From conversations with collections, it appears they have a good feeling and confidence in the market," she said. "People are going back to collecting art."